Durham Region

Fallacy Alert!

Dear Friends: I am so grateful there are so many of you. I am very, very blessed in this life to have so many wonderful friends. (Plato said, “Your wealth is where your friends are,” & I know I am very wealthy indeed!!  )

& I’m grateful to all of you for being my friends! We all know I am “not like everyone else.” I colour only outside the lines, really – thoroughly non-conformist, & am always "blowing the whistle" about all (or, well, at least some of) the elephants in the room – which doesn’t always make me popular, does it?? 

Well. There’s another elephant I gotta call.

As you all know, I’ve been doing environmental work for the past 20+ years – on issues like waste, pesticides, cancer prevention, climate change & nuclear energy. I know you appreciate my work, & my efforts, & it’s lovely to be so well appreciated, for sure. As I’ve said a few times lately, my work is not fuelled by money, it’s fuelled by appreciation (as well as passion, of course!). I am much appreciated, & this makes all the difference in the world to me.

But. But but but but but.

One of you said something to me the other day that really kind of upset me. That the issue of incineration had come up when you were talking to another friend, who was apparently quite shocked to hear that an incinerator is being planned for Durham Region (of course, this has been in the news for years!). And you said to this friend, “Janet’s on it.”

As though I am Wonder Woman or something, & can tackle all these horrid schemes & projects & situations, while others just watch & cheer me on from the sidelines.

Boy, I sure wish life were that simple. I really, really do.

But it isn’t. It isn’t anywhere near that simple.  

We need an army of people to join us – on all the issues of environmental & social justice.

Haven’t you all noticed how insane things are?????

Geez.  

******

Listen.

I no longer believe in “long-term prospects” for the human race. I’m not even so sure about the short-term ones. I do believe things are far, far more grave than most of us realize. (I have long said humans are the cancer on this Earth – & also the cure. But most of us are not putting the necessary efforts into the cure…so it simply isn’t happening. Healing & cures take work. Plenty of it. You don’t just sit on your butt waiting for them. You know??)

So, I have finally, sadly, come to accept that we are f*cked.[1]

****

& yet. & yet. & yet.

I’m still working my butt off, out here, dudes.

My energy lately is focused on trying to help keep Durham Region (& surrounding areas, e.g., the city of Toronto just to the west of us) safer, by working to oppose the proposed Darlington “new build” of 2 – 4 new reactors, & also oppose the plans to “refurbish” the existing reactors (& keep that damn nuke facility going until 2055).  Yech to all of the above!!  (Lots of postings about the March/April 2011 Darlington new build hearings here.) “Refurbishments” create a ton of new nuclear waste   – so we simply have to stop this!! 

These efforts need you. A whole bunch of you. We can & do make a difference, even with really small numbers – but not enough of a difference.

Albert Einstein said “The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.”

Do you want to help prevent a nuclear accident like Fukushima from happening here? Or having household garbage burned in an incinerator that will further pollute our air, Lake Ontario, our own bodies & those of our children & grandchildren? (these are just for a start: there are other pressing issues!!)

I’ve given up thinking we can “pull it out of the fire.” I used to believe that, & sadly that faith has left me. I believe too much apathy & over-consumption for too long, along with the sheer momentum of our voracious use of the Earth’s resources, have simply pushed things beyond the brink.

Even so, it isn’t too late to make a difference. I know the efforts of our small group (Durham Nuclear Awareness) are making a difference.

But we need lots of help.

Please help us!

Janet

p.s. pretty please!!

p.p.s. many nuke-related Resources, Quotes & postings on this blog. & a section called 'Nuclear Madness.' & a handout on Darlington resources here 

p.p.p.s. U might want to check out the Greenpeace report 'Lessons from Fukushima' here.

p.s. # 4: & a list of Darlington Refurbishment-related postings here

‘Quote of the day with this post: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” Dr. Martin Luther King, 1929-1968

Runners-up for Q. of the day:

“Science may have found a cure for most evils; but it has found no remedy for the worst of them all – the apathy of human beings.” – Helen Keller

“Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence. Yet it is the one essential, vital quality of those who seek to change a world which yields most painfully to change.” ~ Robert F. Kennedy, in a speech in Capetown, South Africa, June 6, 1966.

Evil thrives on apathy and cannot exist without it.” – Hannah Arendt 

“The most revolutionary thing one can do is always to proclaim loudly what is happening.” – Rosa Luxemburg 

“We don’t have to engage in grand heroic actions to participate in the process of change. Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can change the world.” – Howard Zinn 

“Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little.” – Edmund Burke


[1] Woody Allen put a funny spin on this that always makes me chuckle. He once said “More than any time in history mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness, the other to total extinction. Let us pray that we have the wisdom to choose correctly.”

Placards for Pols

* My other incineration-related posts are found here under a new heading.

So, I attended a Durham Regional Council Health & Social Services & Works committee meeting recently. We have a “burning” issue in Durham Region [east of Toronto, Ontario, Canada] – our politicians have in their infinite wisdom (???) decided to sink close to $300 million dollars into a municipal solid waste incinerator. Oh…politicians. They always like the BIG projects, don’t they?? Big (dumb) projects always seem “sexier” than many small (smart) ones. It makes me so tired.

But I don’t really want to do a lecture on the un-wisdom of politicians – just want to float an idea for some easily portable, inflatable placards to have handy any time one is at a meeting like the one I was at on November 10th & saw Durham’s Regional Council doing their little stupid dance.

Of course I’ve written about the need for placards before – earlier this year, while attending the hearings on the proposal to spend billions of dollars on new reactors at the Darlington Nuclear Generating Station.

There are some definite similarities I’m noticing.

The politicians always act like they’re so smart & really know what they’re talking about, but really they rely totally on their hired guns, the consultants, with their fancy suits & their slick powerpoint presentations, & any citizen with a small amount of understanding of the issue at hand & a slightly discerning ear begins to be able to sniff out the political/industry-inspired bullshit almost before it’s spoken aloud.

Ah. Nuclear plants. Garbage incinerators. Both so very, very yesterday, hmmmm?

Well. I don’t have much time & I gotta get this done, so here goes with my suggestions for phrases to use on placards. Really hope someone comes up with some cleverly engineered portable, inflatable ones. I’m heading to another meeting tomorrow, & I just know the placard sayings I’m going to suggest will be eminently reusable/recyclable then & on many other occasions:

  • Arrogance alert!
  • Back to Math class, please!!
  • Bafflegab!
  • Bozo alert!!
  • Bullshit!
  • Corruption: can you smell it too?
  • Get Durham Region out of my mouth, thanks!(1)
  • Have you forgotten who hired/elected you to DO THIS JOB?????
  • How’s about a little humility?
  • I don’t want to be in your little club thanks but could I please just have a cup of coffee?? (um, since my/our tax dollars are paying for your coffee...)
  • Is there any good old-fashioned integrity in the room???
  • JUST ANSWER THE QUESTION, please! (& spare us the bafflegab/bullshit routine)
  • ‘Not statistically significant’ is a bullshit phrase
  • Please stop treating the public like a bunch of morons
  • Pssst – I think I hear the sound of the gravy train!
  • Rogues!
  • Spare us the fancy language, willya? (or simply, Obfuscation/Fancy Language Alert!!)
  • THE EMPEROR HAS NO CLOTHES
  • YOU, Sir (or Madam) really don’t know sh-t from shinola
  • You talk really-really-really fast but it’s all just BULLSHIT!
  • Your so-called science sure isn’t very scientific!
  • We’re paying your salaries…I guess you forgot??
  • Where’s the transparency???

A few more random observations:

  • Civil servants often seem to forget the civil part – as well, of course, as forgetting whom they are hired to serve & who pays their salaries. Ditto for politicians, of course. Not to mention all those corporate pillagers.
  • I am fatally tired of people in fancy suits who think they're so damn superior to the people – the citizens – the taxpayers – who pay for their fancy suits, & their junkets, & their…well, I could go on, hmmm?
  • We pay their salaries. They get coffee & sandwiches at these awful meetings; we get treated like a mob of unruly peasants; not even a cup of coffee. It’s appalling! (& the public, the so-called “average citizens,” stay away in droves. Death to apathy!!)
  • We get 10 minutes to say our piece to these people we have hired &/or for whom we voted (or didn’t vote) & whose salaries we are paying. They get to act like kings & queens…on our dime. & you thought feudalism was dead???

Finally, a suggestion for the future of politics (& everything else):

  • No more fancy meeting rooms
  • No more fancy suits
  • No more fancy powerpoint presentations that tell everything but the TRUTH

From here on in?

  • Everyone wears jeans & a T-shirt.
  • We all sit in a circle.
  • We all remind ourselves over & over again that we’re all in this mess together. The only way back out of it is also together. (Our politicians & the bureaucrats? They need our intelligence. They just don’t get that yet.)

Janet

P.S. I’ve said this before, in a recent post about a nuclear waste conference I attended. It doesn’t really make me feel good to be sarcastic, sardonic, rude. I know down to my bones we all had a hand in making these messes together, & clearly, the only way out of them is also together. Could we please get at it??

P.P.S. In other posts elsewhere I’ve listed some other placards (or bumper sticker wording) I really like, e.g. the ones I’ve seen down at Occupy Toronto (here & here). Also at a Grassy Narrows event I attended in 2010. And, at nuclear-related hearings, here, here & here

P.P.P.S. A person has got to have a little fun, you know?? I guess that’s why I always come up with these crazy placard ideas (or the awards I am always handing out to the nuclear industry). It’s enough to make a person crazy or despairing (or both). Fun is fun, & as they say in the ‘Awakening the Dreamer, Changing the Dreamsymposium, it’s important in the midst of all these very serious messes that we seek out “urgent joy.” Don’t you just love that advice??

Quote of the day: “One of the things I argue in my book [A Journey Through Economic Time] is the extent to which people go to avoid rational decisions – the very large role of mental deficiency in economic history. Generally, people have been very resistant to attributing a causal role in history to stupidity.” ~ John Kenneth Galbraith, Economist


(1) This in reference to the fluoridation issue, which was also under discussion at the November 10th committee meeting. & don’t get me started on our so-called health units, which like military groups everywhere seem to actually believe it really makes sense to destroy something in order to save it. OMG. The stupidity that takes place routinely in bureaucracies is enough to make a person weep. Of course there are good people at work doing good things in these broken organizations…of course, of course, of course. But the systems they work for are broken; you hear what I’m saying??

Burning Garbage: It Stinks!

I’ve recently returned to live in Durham Region, east of Toronto, Ontario (Canada). I’ve spent the greater part of my adult life in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area), as it happens, but I was (mostly) away for 8 years in there, during which time a big battle on burning garbage has been playing out here.

Turncoat politicians are involved (surprise, surprise! Not). Some were elected on an anti-incineration platform – helped, in some cases, by citizens who’d become involved in their campaigns on that very basis (imagine how angry those citizens are about this!?). There has also been, I am told, intimidation of smaller, less powerful areas of the Region by the head honcho of Durham Region Council (not a popular man, from what I hear, & not elected to this post by the voters of Durham Region).

Gotta say, this is an all-too-familiar kind of scenario.

Big Business has a fancy plan they claim is going to be an “easy” solution to a big environmental issue/problem/crisis.

Highly-paid shills for the particular industry (incinerator, nuclear; take your pick!) appear before the politicians in their expensive suits, deliver their technical & jargon-laden powerpoint presentations, carefully glossing over any inconvenient truths such as health & environmental impacts, & almost invariably snow the bored/unwitting/bought/fill-in-the-blank politicians.

Citizens mobilize. Even medical professionals become involved & protest the plan. (In this case, 75 local doctors signed a petition against the incinerator. You can go here to see some of what the U.S.-based Physicians for Social Responsibility have to say about the risks of incineration.)

But whatever deals went on behind closed doors, took place behind those firmly closed doors.

The deal with Covanta has been struck.

The people it will affect the most – in terms of health impacts that of course are always hard to prove, short of a smoking gun (especially when corrupt boards of health manipulate the statistics in the ways they are so very, very adept at doing; can you say “statistically insignificant”??) will not only be the ones breathing the poisoned air (with no bribes to sweeten our deal) – we get to foot the bill, too!

It’s enough to make you crazy!! (Fortunately, I don’t have far to go! Heh heh. & of course, the inmates are running the asylum anyway, hmm??)

Now, I’m not as “up” on the waste issue (or incineration) as I used to be. I detoured into other areas of activism along the way.

This much I do know:

  1. Burning garbage creates dioxins – vastly carcinogenic & dangerous to all living things.
  2. Poisoned air really gets around. It is no respecter of borders!
  3. What comes out the stack will blow into Lake Ontario, onto farmland & crops downwind, & it will also blow well to the east of Durham Region – so the communities east of this planned nastiness also need to become involved & help put a stop to it!
  4. The ash created when you burn garbage is extremely toxic. It has to go somewhere. Apparently the toxic ash from this (combined York & Durham Regions) monstrosity will be shipped to New York state, U.S.A. Great solution! Not…
  5. Without citizen involvement, & donations toward the lawsuit underway (go to the Durham CLEAR Web site to find out more), we will be dead ducks on this. Please donate! Write a letter! Talk it up with friends, colleagues, neighbours, family. Buy a T-shirt. I am doing all of the above, so am not asking anyone to do anything I am not prepared to do myself.
  6. Not being an “expert”(1) on this topic, I have to rely on the groups that have become the real experts in this issue. Sites I suggest you check out are:

· Durham CLEAR

· Durham Environment Watch

· Prevent Cancer Now

· Resources page here

This issue is like any other, readers – especially fellow residents of Durham Region. If you choose to remain silent about this, your apathy will reap what your inaction inevitably sows. And those consequences will be affecting all of us (including y/our children & grandchildren) for a very long time to come.

Janet

P.S. My other incineration-related posts are found here under a new heading.

‘Quote of the day’ with this post: “The latest scheme masquerading as a rational and responsible alternative to landfills is a nationwide – and worldwide – move to drastically increase the use of incineration… The principal consequence of incineration is thus the transporting of the community’s garbage – in gaseous form, through the air – to neighbouring communities, across state lines, and indeed, to the atmosphere of the entire globe, where it will linger for many years to come. In effect, we have discovered yet another group of powerless people upon whom we can dump the consequences of our own waste; those who live in the future and cannot hold us accountable.” Al Gore in Earth In The Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit

Runners-up: “Silence is the voice of complicity.” Source unknown

“Science may have found a cure for most evils; but it has found no remedy for the worst of them all – the apathy of human beings.” – Helen Keller

“Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little.” – Edmund Burke

“Almost anything you do will seem insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.” – Mahatma Gandhi

“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors. We borrow it from our children.” – Ancient Kenyan Proverb


(1) Jane Jacobs once said “Always be prepared to believe that experts are stupid. They very often are.”

OH, Canada…(take 2)

<Take 1 is here >

Oh dear me.

A Conservative majority.

Canadians have just handed a majority government to Stephen Harper, a Prime Minister recently found in contempt of Parliament. (Great site for seeing lots of truth about the Harper government here)

Two Conservative MPs I particularly wondered about (Cheryl Gallant & Bev Oda) have been re-elected.

Cheryl Gallant (Renfrew County) is such an embarrassment to her own party, they keep her from attending all-candidates’ meetings! She recently insulted East Coast Canadians who’d experienced a personal tragedy in which several people were killed (go here to see the Rick Mercer rant on this). I’ve watched Ms. Gallant in action for several years (she’s a former MP of mine from my Renfrew County days) & have observed that she really only opens her mouth to change feet. She’s a disgrace to all thinking Canadians.

She has been re-elected.

Bev Oda (from Durham Region, east of Toronto) was at the centre of a scandal involving lying to Parliament – repeatedly, if I am not mistaken. (see here)

She too has been re-elected.

Canadians (but only 40% of us; more on that below) have elected a Parliament that will be dominated by a man who reminds many of us of a robot. Who is not even vaguely “democratic” – even within his own party. (As Carl Sagan asked in his book Billions & Billions – Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the New Millenium, what is it Conservatives are conserving??)

Who doesn’t give a damn about the environment, the middle class, the poor, health care…you name it.

And we elected this poor sorry excuse for a “leader.”

So.

I’m feeling a bit sick today.

Here’s the thing: I’m in very good company!!

Only 40% of those who voted actually voted for this excuse of a leader. And since the voter turnout was only 41%, Harper's party actually was chosen by only 24% of Canada's registered electors.

More than 70% of Canadian voters did not vote for him.

& this is what we call democracy????

In Canada we do not have proportional representation, which means that a party that receives only 40% of the vote can claim to have a “majority” government.

It will always puzzle me that Canadians turned down the chance to institute proportional representation a few years ago. (I remember the day those results came in. I never got out of my PJ’s, I was so depressed & disgusted. I bet I grumped at the cats, too. Sorry, you guys…)

Sometimes I feel ashamed to be a Canadian. We are so not the fine folks a lot of us think we are. (Not only are a lot of Canadians smug, lots of Americans seem to believe fancy things about us that would lead us to continue being smug. A) Things here are not as good as you think, folks, & B) Let’s stop being smug. It’s bad for our health!!)

But I don’t just feel ashamed to be Canadian. Sometimes I feel ashamed as a human being.

We can be a phenomenally shameful bunch.

However.

I’m a fighter. Not a victim. I’m feisty – & I have a ton of equally feisty friends & colleagues. We are not quitters.

We put oomph in the phrase “Quit bitching. Start a revolution.”

And too, a lot of the people I know – especially some who ran as candidates for the Green Party – have what I think of as palpable integrity.

I will go to my grave wondering how people with such integrity can lose to candidates whose behaviour is virtually criminal. I will also go to my grave (I expect) knowing that power corrupts. (Just recently re-read the section of that fabulous book Broken Open, by Elizabeth Lesser, in which she points out that even the finest, most “spiritual” people are subject to the “power corrupts” phenomenon, & that we might as well just all know this & count on it. Let’s hope our NDP (New Democratic Party) doesn’t get too silly with this power they have just won…)

& also, that we must be careful what we wish for. (I could say more on that topic, but another day, perhaps.)

Well. I’m off to a corner to lick my wounds. Take a bit of a pause & ponder on how & where to direct my energy in the days ahead.

But not for too long. There’s a hurting world out there to fight for!

Janet

P.S. I am, of course, DELIGHTED that Green Party leader Elizabeth May has won a seat in Parliament. Hurray, hurray, hurray!!! Elizabeth May is a blessing to us all...

Quotations Relevant Today

Tommy Douglas on Fascism: “Once more let me remind you what fascism is. It need not wear a brown shirt or a green shirt – it may even wear a dress shirt. Fascism begins the moment a ruling class, fearing the people may use their political democracy to gain economic democracy, begins to destroy political democracy in order to retain its power of exploitation and special privilege.”

“Bad officials are elected by good citizens who do not vote.” – George Jean Nathan, 1882-1958

“True democracy is only possible when people have effective power over their own affairs, their own goals, and their own resources. The larger the governing unit, the less responsive it is to human needs, the more bureaucratic and inefficient its administration. Government, we must always remind ourselves, is not (or should not be) a professionally organized system to tell people how to run their affairs; it is (or should be) a means whereby people themselves are enabled to resolve matters in their own community.” ~ John Papworth in Putting Power In Its Place

“One of the things I argue in my book [A Journey Through Economic Time] is the extent to which people go to avoid rational decisions – the very large role of mental deficiency in economic history. Generally, people have been very resistant to attributing a causal role in history to stupidity.” ~ John Kenneth Galbraith, Economist

“First they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Socialists and the Trade Unionists, but I was neither, so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew so I did not speak out. And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me.” – Pastor Martin Niemoeller (1892-1964), a Nazi victim who was imprisoned at Sachsenhausen & Dachau

“A society of sheep must in time beget a government of wolves.” – Bertrand De Jouvenel

“Evil thrives on apathy and cannot exist without it.” – Hannah Arendt

“The modern conservative…is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy. That is the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.” – John Kenneth Galbraith quoted in Blessed Unrest – How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being & Why No One Saw it Coming, by Paul Hawken <Pg. 115>

Check out ‘Quotation Central!here, for ‘Political’ & ‘Democracy’ quotes (& others!)

Quote for Today w. this post: “Cut your losses. Go where the energy is.” – Janet McNeill

Darl. Hearings: Janet M. (aka me - March 31st)

March 31, 2011.

Members of the Joint Review Panel, OPG & CNSC staff & fellow members of the public:

I appreciate the opportunity to make this presentation to the Darlington New Build Joint Review Panel.

As I laid out in the outline I submitted in February, my presentation will consist of the following:

  • Introductory remarks
  • Comments on the limitations of the review process
  • Comments on projected costs & overall economics of this project
  • Nuclear fuel chain issues & implications
  • Issues of public trust
  • Concluding remarks

Introductory Remarks

I’ve been an environmental activist for more than 20 years now. I’m also a former long-time resident of Durham Region & spent most of my adult life in Durham Region & the Greater Toronto Area.

It was never my intent to become involved in nuclear issues & I’ll explain in a moment why I did. Most of my years of activism have been focused on waste, pesticides, cancer prevention & climate change initiatives.

It’s relevant that I am a mother. Concern for my children’s future began even before they were born, naturally enough, & the threats to their future seem to have multiplied exponentially.

Now that they are adults who might like to have children of their own one day, I have the motivation to keep on working on environmental issues – even though sometimes I’d like to just stop & pull the covers over my head – the way so many “ordinary people” seem to do.

I’ve been thinking for a couple of days now about panel member Mme. Beaudet’s question to Mark Mattson, Lake Ontario Waterkeeper President, about reaching “ordinary people” in this process.

For sure I am one of the ordinary people in the sense that, unlike so many of my brilliant colleagues who’ve spoken at this hearing, I am not a technical person. I don’t really have a clue how nuclear energy & nuclear power plants work. I’m not scientifically minded & I’m not mathematically minded, either.

I could never engage with an engineer about technical matters involving reactors, & most of the CNSC staff could silence me pretty quickly with their jargon.

But here’s the thing. Although I am not technical, I do have an ear for language, & I can still see pretty well. I can often tell when I’m being deceived, & I can spot when an Emperor isn’t wearing any clothes. I often recall that Jane Jacobs (internationally known for her work on urban issues) once said, “Always be prepared to believe that experts are stupid. They very often are.”

I’m a big believer in telling the truth, & in drawing attention to elephants in the room. This doesn’t always make me popular, of course! Sometimes we humans are pretty invested in leaving those elephants alone – whether on big scary matters like nuclear energy, or the “small” ones in our personal lives.

As regards telling the truth, I recall that Maggie Kuhn, founder of the Grey Panthers, once said “Speak your mind, even when your voice shakes.” …. so that’s what I am trying to do. Sometimes my voice does shake – it may very well be shaking now – but if we human beings are going to keep on living on this planet (something I am less & less convinced is going to be possible in the long-term), I think more & more of us are going to need to start telling the truth.

Now, as to how & why I became involved in nuclear issues.

After 24 years in Durham Region, I moved to Deep River for 6 years. Friends I made in Renfrew County told me about the little company in Pembroke that makes glow-in-the-dark products using tritium from CANDU reactors. The things I learned about the tritium pollution in air & groundwater in Pembroke shocked me deeply. That’s what motivated me to start attending Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission hearings. It’s been very illuminating!

The Limitations of This Review Process

The limitations of this process have been covered quite brilliantly by other intervenors – Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, Northwatch, the International Institute of Concern for Public Health, Greenpeace, & others.

I would like to call attention to the document called Public Hearing Procedures (no file or document #) that states, in Section 1, ‘Background Information,’ that the proposal is “for the site preparation, construction, operation, decommissioning and abandonment of up to four new nuclear reactors” etc. etc.

The use of the word “abandonment” certainly sends up a red flag for me! I’m not sure how we can reasonably talk about “abandoning” nuclear reactors whose contaminants & waste will remain radioactive & dangerous for thousands & thousands of years. As far as I’m aware, the nuclear industry has no real experience in the safe decommissioning of used-up nuclear plants. The use of the word “abandonment” is a bit shocking to me, for sure.

In Section 2 of that same document, under “Role of the Panel,” it refers to this “environmental assessment of the complete life cycle of the project.” Again, I’m not sure how we can be properly said to assess the complete life cycle of a project whose carrying out involves the creation of dangerous wastes that will remain dangerous not just for my grandchildren’s grandchildren, but for their grandchildren’s grandchildren’s grandchildren… & perhaps beyond?? It seems a little preposterous, then, to me, to make this claim about the “life cycle” of the project.

There are other aspects of this plan for new nuclear reactors that I have trouble buying into. “Bounding scenarios.” “Multiple technology approach.” “Credible accident scenarios.”

The language all sounds more than a little absurd! It sounds like fancy jargon that intends not to illuminate or tell the truth, but to do quite the opposite. To cover up & obscure the truth.

I doubt very much that the BP oil spill – or the current nuclear crisis in Japan – would be classified as “credible accident scenarios.” Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean they didn’t happen. As one of the aboriginal speakers said on Monday, the unthinkable does indeed happen…

I have felt quite often during this hearing process that, like Alice in the story of “Alice in Wonderland,” I must have fallen down a rabbit hole. Some of the testimony I hear puts me in mind of the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party.

OPG testimony on Tuesday about their ability to safeguard dangerous nuclear wastes for hundreds of thousands of years is an excellent case in point. I am not in the slightest reassured! In fact, OPG staff members’ inability to really get their heads around the really, really long-term storage challenge is frankly sobering & even downright scary to me.

I recall that a previous intervenor, Dr. Fairlie, called on the nuclear industry to demonstrate humility, not hubris, at this most extraordinary time, considering the escalating nuclear crisis in Japan.

Given the current nuclear crisis, this whole panel experience seems almost surreal. I doubt that I am alone in feeling this sensation.

As for the failure of this process to properly investigate non-nuclear alternatives, I’m reminded of Thomas Alva Edison – father of the light bulb – who said “I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait ‘til oil and coal run out before we tackle that.” Of course Edison very likely had no idea we’d come up with the madness of nuclear energy!

Comments on the projected costs & overall economics of this project

Many intervenors have by now made comments on this as well.

I do not recall how many millions of dollars over budget the first generation of reactors at Darlington came in at. (I do recall that an engineer friend of mine once said that if the money spent building the Darlington reactors had been put into solar panels for all the houses in Durham Region, Darlington wouldn’t have been needed. This friend is a nuclear engineer, by the way…)

How many millions of dollars over budget are all the current nuclear refurbishment projects? Some mind-boggling # that truly does boggle the mind so much that we “ordinary people” lay it aside almost casually & forget about it. We’ve heard it so many times before…

And yet, it is genuinely scandalous, really, isn’t it??

I also wonder how it is possible for OPG to give any realistic estimate of the costs for decommissioning reactors when, from what I gather, decommissioning nuclear facilities is not exactly “proven technology.”

Finally, I want to register my extreme frustration that, if all the money that’s been spent on this project had been put into research & implementation of conservation & efficiency measures (which have been known about for decades now, after all!) & renewable energy sources, a great many more jobs would have been created & they would be sustainable jobs.

The money that is being spent to conduct this hearing process would very likely fund a really efficient environmental non-governmental organization for years. So much waste of human energy, psychic potential & our hard-earned tax dollars! It’s enough to make a person weep….

Nuclear fuel chain issues & implications

I’m aware that you have chosen not to consider the entire nuclear fuel chain to be an integral part of your deliberations. But talking about building new nuclear reactors & failing to consider the rest of the stages involved is kind of like saying we’re going to undertake to protect fetuses from fetal alcohol syndrome – without bothering to talk to the fetuses’ mothers about giving up drinking!

Dave Kraft, director of Nuclear Energy Information Service has said “Authorizing construction of new nuclear reactors without first constructing a radioactive waste disposal facility is like authorizing construction of a new Sears Tower without bathrooms.”

The nuclear fuel chain is… bad news. Human health & the environment are damaged at every turn.

It is not precautionary at any point, & simply claiming it is so will not make it so.

The biggest single problem with the nuclear fuel chain, it seems to me, is the waste that will be created & left for future generations to “manage.”

It seems to me we have a moral duty as human beings to behave in such a way that future generations will be possible. A duty many of us are really only paying lip service to, I’d say.

We heard Dr. Caldicott speak last week, about the damage to children in the wake of the Chernobyl disaster. We all know there will be vast damage to the as-yet unborn in the wake of the current Japanese nuclear disaster.

I wonder about the possibility for future generations to survive at all, considering the overwhelming burden of nuclear pollution that already exists – never mind the bizarre & irresponsible notion of creating yet more.

We cannot properly deal with the wastes that have already been created. As has been pointed out by Mr. Kamps from Beyond Nuclear, “29 years after passage of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, 36 years after the repository search began, 54 years into commercial nuclear power, and 69 years after Fermi first split the atom during the Manhattan Project, the U.S. still has no safe, sound, permanent storage plan for high-level nuclear wastes.”

Nor, as we all know, does Canada.

In my opinion, put very very simply, nuclear energy is immoral.

I believe we have a moral duty to stop messing with it.

Issues of public trust

We know that the public does not trust the nuclear industry. We didn’t before Chernobyl, & we haven’t since. We didn’t before the accident in Japan & of course, we do so even less now.

I’m not sure that this matters much to the nuclear industry. Or to our governments.

There seem to be forces at work here that I don’t really understand.

I do believe, though, that one problem is an engineering mindset that is not serving us well.

I’ve had some interesting encounters with engineers in the past few years. Some of them have said things that have blown my mind.

One who used to work at the Chalk River nuclear facility expressed surprise that it had become clear that the ocean could not withstand all of humanity’s assaults on it. All the pollution we have dumped in it, & continue to dump in it. I was taken aback. He was serious! He thought we could go on & on & on using our precious water bodies as dumping grounds.

Another engineer (two, actually) outright denied what the retired, radioactive steam generators at the Bruce Power plant contain. It was pretty much a “Please! Don’t confuse me with the facts” conversation. The piece of paper I was showing them had information that had been provided by OPG – but these engineers were sure they knew better!

Hear no evil. See no evil. Speak no evil. This is a very dangerous mindset.

The nuclear industry seems to damage people at every stage along the way. People who live near uranium mines get sick. Bodies of water are destroyed forever. Workers at the Bruce were recently exposed to radiation.

Nuclear accidents happen & the public is lied to about the extent of the damage.

A previous speaker at this hearing (one of the articulate First Nations speakers on Monday) said, “No one is listening to us.”

We have good reason not to trust the industry.

Concluding Remarks

I’ve amended my remarks since I first wrote them. I was feeling pretty angry when I wrote my first draft.

Now we have another nuclear disaster, & now we have an opportunity to make this a watershed moment in human history. It may well be too late to save us, but it sure seems to me we ought to at least try!

I haven’t done a lot of stints in the corporate world in my working life. I do still have a powerful memory of one meeting I was part of, in my last corporate role.

I sat looking around the room at all the very bright & energetic people who were in the room & who were really working their butts off on the project we were engaged in. Well above & beyond the call of duty, for sure.

I thought, “Holy smokes. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could harness all the energy of all these brilliant minds to do the things that really need to be done to fix up the planet??”

And I’ve been having that thought again here, during the past days of hearings.

There’s a real “us & them” mentality at work here. It’s adversarial, & it sure doesn’t help us solve problems.

Last year I read an amazing book called Country of My Skull – Guilt, Sorrow & the Limits of Forgiveness in the New South Africa, about the Truth & Reconciliation Commission. I recall from time to time (when I’m not feeling angry about what a mess things are & wondering about & blaming who is responsible for all these messes) that we really are all in this together, & that keeping on with the us & them dynamic isn’t going to take us anywhere we really want to go.

I can’t help but wish we’d use this time now, in the wake of this horrendous Fukushima nuclear disaster, to put our minds to a little “truth & reconciliation.” Put all our bright minds together & find solutions – not keep making more & more problems.

I’m terribly naïve – I know that. We environmental activists are idealists. I guess somebody has to do it!

Einstein, as we all know, said “Nuclear power is one hell of a way to boil water!” He also said “The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.”

While I have no expectation that this panel will actually decide to put a halt to this project, that is what I very much hope you will do.

Earlier this week, on Monday, after I left the day’s hearing here, I went down to the gate at the Darlington Generating Station, where I looked at the plaque on the monument that was erected by the Nuclear Awareness Project group in 1989. The group put a time capsule in the ground & then put up a monument over top of it.

The plaque reads:

“In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next 7 generations.” – from the Great Law of the Haudenosaunee/Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy.

“This monument marks the opening of the Darlington Nuclear Generating Station. We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors – we borrow it from our children. The time capsule contained herein shall be opened after 7 generations, in the year 2129. The capsule contains information reflecting the debate on nuclear technology.

Our children shall judge us.”

It is surely so.

Thank you.